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Joan Crawford: Hollywood Martyr

Joan Crawford: Hollywood Martyr

2.5 4
by David Bret

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In the first fully uncensored biography of Joan Crawford, bestselling author David Bret follows Crawford from working in a Kansas City laundry to collecting an Oscar for Mildred Pierce, including details from her countless love affairs and her devotion toward Christian Science. Bret also divulges how her loathed mother forced her to work as a prostitute and


In the first fully uncensored biography of Joan Crawford, bestselling author David Bret follows Crawford from working in a Kansas City laundry to collecting an Oscar for Mildred Pierce, including details from her countless love affairs and her devotion toward Christian Science. Bret also divulges how her loathed mother forced her to work as a prostitute and use sex strategically, as well as what really led her to disinherit two of her four children, earning her the moniker “Mommie Dearest.” Drawing on a wealth of unpublished material and interviews with stars like Marlene Dietrich and Douglas Fairbanks, David Bret presents a fascinating portrait of a single-minded, uncompromising woman.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Skyscraper, Winter 08
“Full of salacious stories and juicy scandals…A fascinating read.”
Publishers Weekly
Bret, who has written several celebrity bios, details Joan Crawford's rags-to-riches story in this able biography. Born Lucille LeSueur in 1905, Crawford lived a hardscrabble life in the Midwest; as the product of a Dickensian childhood, she slept her way to the top. She became a taxi dancer who turned tricks; discovered by an MGM talent scout at age 20, she headed to Hollywood. From silents to talkies, in a career that spanned from 1925 to 1970, Crawford, glamorous and vulnerable, became a gay icon and hero to working-class women in films like Possessed and the Oscar-winning Mildred Pierce. Renowned for sleeping with her leading men, she had an on-and-off affair with Clark Gable (who Bret claims swung both ways). Three of her four husbands were bisexual; two were abusive. Her voracious sexual appetite was legendary. Bret chronicles her films, her feud with Bette Davis and dismisses her daughter's Mommie Dearest tirade, but he revels in Hollywood's sexual excesses, and fans who crave a lively insider view will most appreciate this bio. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
When a celebrity biographer quotes liberally from Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon, you know you're in for a campy read. Is this book over the top? Yes. But when practically everything has been said about Hollywood diva Joan Crawford—the woman even covered herself (A Portrait of Joan)—then it's time to dig for real dirt. Bret (Errol Flynn: Satan's Angel) uses "unpublished material and interviews" to reveal the following: that Crawford's mother made her prostitute herself, that three of Crawford's husbands were gay, and that the star appeared in porn films and liked rough sex. And that's just for starters. The first major biography of Crawford in almost a decade, Bret's book does a good job detailing Crawford's films and casts doubt on her adopted daughter's famous account in Mommie Dearest. However, it is often unclear where Bret has gotten some of his "facts." No matter, this is one guilty pleasure gossip fans will love. For those who want a more balanced approach, Bob Thomas's Joan Crawfordstill stands as one of the better biographies out there. For larger public libraries.
—Rosellen Brewer
Kirkus Reviews
A flat, superficial biography that obsesses over Crawford's sex life as intensely as Crawford reportedly obsessed over having sex. Along with Greta Garbo, Katharine Hepburn and Bette Davis, Bret finds Joan Crawford "one of four genuinely great movie actresses of the twentieth century." And from Bret's account, Crawford got to the top and stayed there most of her life because she was "an easy lay." In a vague and unclearly sourced account that leans heavily on previously published works (including Crawford's autobiography) and fan magazine copy, Bret has Crawford initiating sex with her high school football team, then bartering her favors to get stage and film roles (including some early porn flicks). Bret does not take into account the possibility that there's a light on Broadway for every actor willing to sleep with directors and producers to get work-but that this does not necessarily translate into a successful career. What set Crawford apart from the willing pack? Could she also act? Did the public respond to something in her often splendidly dressed and photographed images? Bret finds her work awful in Rain and enthralling in Humoresque. But rather than analyze why Crawford dominated the film frame in some of the quintessential "women's films" of Hollywood's golden age, Bret supplies flatly written plot summaries that are devoid of critical perspective. Beyond the plodding synopses, the work largely becomes another "Who Was Gay/Straight/Bisexual in Hollywood." Just about everyone, it seems, Crawford included, swung both ways. And most of the men, from this account, were sexually well equipped. Crawford's second husband, Franchot Tone, was "horse hung." Gary Cooper and John Barrymorewere "two-handers." And though he may have been the love of Crawford's life, Clark Gable had modest sexual equipment and, worse, severe halitosis. Bedroom noir.

Product Details

Da Capo Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.80(d)

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Meet the Author

French-born David Bret's previous books include biographies of subjects as diverse as Marlene Dietrich, Edith Piaf, Gracie Fields, George Formby, Rudolph Valentino, Morrissey, and Rock Hudson. He lives in Yorkshire, England.

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Joan Crawford: Hollywood Martyr 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Most biographical accounts of Joan Crawford depict her as a woman who was both highly talented and highly flawed, but a 'martyr' hardly comes to mind, and especially does not come to mind after reading this book. The author does a fairly good job of showing her as a product of her hardscrabble upbringing, but then seems to veer off course, seemingly buying into her own publicity as a real life 'Mildred Pierce.' For one thing, he completely dismisses Christina Crawford's scathing biography of her mother as having no merit whatsoever. Undoubtedly Christina Crawford's over-the-top book was heavily embellished and tainted by her own sour grapes over her disinheritance, but with her mother's well-documented drinking problems, multiple affairs, and public feuds with competing female leads, it is not that far a reach to believe she was not exactly the most devoted mother of her time. He points to Crawford's twin daughters dismissal of their older sister's book as proof that the story was fabricated, but ignores the fact that the two youngsters were shipped off to boarding school at the tender young age of eight. Another thing--Is it me, or did anyone else who read this book find the author obsessed with labeling nearly every Hollywood actor or actress in Crawford's circle as either gay or bisexual? While I am sure there were plenty who fit this description, the author took so much space detailing his beliefs about one person or another, that it began to take away from the Crawford story itself. Joan Crawford was a fascinating woman, but there are better biographies on this subject.
KimberG More than 1 year ago
I couldn't finish reading this book. I should have looked at the reviews before purchasing it. I agree with what the other two reviews state. I wish I had my receipt.. I would return mine too!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago